Since the day eBrand Interactive began its partnership with Zappos, and took over management of a particular marketing campaign, eBrand Interactive has dramatically increased that company’s revenue, while significantly enhancing their return on ad spend.
The work my eBrand Interactive team has done is the stuff that case studies are made of. I’d like to go into details but given the nature of our competition, I’m hesitant to reveal too much, but let me say this; eBrand Interactive uses industry-leading, next generation technologies, and expert accounts managers, to do what our “celebrity” competitors can’t; hit the ball out of the park, time and again, for advertiser after advertiser.
Right now, though, I’d like to take a moment to express my admiration for the company. Later in this article is a case study regarding a successfull type of e-mail re-marketing that Zappos developed.
Early on in our discussions it was made clear that providing platinum level customer service and a wide ranging selection was of utmost importance to the company. We’ve often heard companies espouse this but I can tell you, from the way that we’ve been treated, that Zappos walks the talk. One can tell how a much a company values its brand by the way it treats its vendors.
Zappos has treated us wonderfully. Every person we’ve dealt with, and the team we currently work with, has been and is a delight. Zappos delivers a positive experience whether one is a customer or a vendor. That compelling experience creates brand loyalty: customers come back and vendors work harder. Zappos represents what I hoped e-commerce would become when I first began my career in online marketing back 2002.
However, too many companies have lost sight of the fact that those numbers, names and e-mail addresses belong to real people with hopes, dreams, and fears. Zappos hasn’t lost sight of that.
Zappos invests in its people, processes, technologies and products. The end result is a level of efficiency that drives revenue gains while simultaneously cutting unnecessary costs. They manage expectations, and they keep their commitments. That means fewer products are returned, good will is created, rand customers return again, and again. Zappos generates the type of viral marketing that has been used for eons, and is still the best: positive work of mouth.
Kudos to Zappos…I can’t tell you how proud my team and I are to be participants in, and causative agents for, their continued success. Our companies, and our core values, synch perfectly.
Maybe that’s why they chose us when they had a host of vendors to choose from.
I’ve included a case study, from a leading forum, regarding their e-mail marketing campaigns to in-house lists. I think you’ll find this informative and a map for optimizing your remarketing efforts:
SUMMARY: Mixing customer reviews into email campaigns improves response but many marketers still wonder to what extent UGC and email can be happily married.
Check out how Zappos.com created a 100% UGC-driven newsletter that keeps their best shoe buyers engaged with the online retailer at little cost. Their newsletter strategy also drives their Web 2.0 tactics on Facebook and Twitter.
Almost half of marketers now consider exploring the relationship between email and Web 2.0 as a medium-to-high priority, according to MarketingSherpa’s Email Marketing Benchmark Guide 2009. Well, Zappos.com’s newsletter, the Zappos Daily Shoe Digest, should open the eyes for those who remain on the fence about the idea. Shoe Digest consists solely of user-generated content.
“I don’t have exact [match-back] sales stats, but the Shoe Digest audience goes right to the core of our repeat customers demo and keeps them engaged,” says Adam Audette, SEO Manager, Zappos.com. “The number of subscribers has been growing at 8% year over year. It provides a community for like-minded people who are Zappos loyalists. It is not salesy, it provides us with tons of content, and it’s a long-term play that we are very happy with.”
Audette says that the UGC makes the newsletter a completely cost-effective loyalty tool, which has been paying dividends during the economic downturn. In short, the idea has produced an audience of rabid shoe enthusiasts (and possible repeat shoppers).
“It has an invaluable aspect of giving back and getting that personal connection. It generates its own buzz at the same time. We don’t track open rates for the Shoe Digest. But based on the activity we see with people submitting comments and my 10-plus years of experience with email lists, I would estimate the open rate to be greater than 60%.”
Here are the 5 big tactics they used to implement the program and keep it growing:
-> Tactic #1. Build list on order page
They wanted first to let their customers know about the newsletter in a meaningful fashion. So, they included an opt-in checkbox for Shoe Digest when *every* new customer created an account.
It is one of two checkboxes that appears on the page – with the other one offering a chance to win free shoes if they sign up for general promotions from the eretailer.
Once subscribers receive a Shoe Digest, the copy at the top of the message encourages them to send in comments to a Zappos.com email address, which is dedicated to the program. A cautionary note, though: Audette warns against thinking that such an initiative will take off *right away*. People may sign up for the newsletter, but they can be shy about contributing content at the outset.
“At first, they weren’t really talking or saying a whole lot. So, we had to do a little poking and prodding to get discussion going about products and so forth. As it grew, people started writing in more and more. It became a channel for Zappos advocates to start communicating among themselves.”
-> Tactic #2. Keep layout simple
Audette says that the layout for Shoe Digest is modeled on a simple, “listserv” design style. “It’s almost goes back to the pre-blog era. It’s plain text, about 8-15 comments in every issue.”
They send it out every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Audette and his team use straightforward subject lines that include the brand and edition number. A recent example of their subject lines: “Zappos.com Digest 1043: The Practice of Shoe Removal.”
At the top of the layout, they use preview snippets, along with who the authors are (first names only). Then, the information is available as the reader scrolls down the email body. Zappos.com product offers do *not* appear anywhere in the newsletter.
Here are the main types of comments they publish:
o How-to questions about things like foot comfort and shoe upkeep
o Shoe reviews
o Submitted answers to questions that were in past editions
An example of a how-to question from a recent edition: “Do you have a recommendation for sneakers? I just found out through a scratch test about a recent allergy to thiuram mix, but want to keep up my new habit of running…..”
-> Tactic #3. Only use top comments
They get an average of 350 comments per week, but only use about 30 of them. Of course, they had to put in a process to decide which ones make the cut.
Audette has assigned one marketing staffer to the job. She has a regular presence in the newsletter as a moderator. She also pares down the submissions to the most relevant for shoe aficionados.
“We make sure that each post is interesting and entertaining,” Audette says. “There is some editing to make it more readable. But in the end, we look for personality and quality. Sometimes, a comment that is one sentence is good. Often in that case, it’s a really good question or remark. Whatever the length, it has to have substance.”
-> Tactic #4. Beware of negative comments
Audette’s rule of thumb is to allow as much freedom of expression to appear in the newsletter as possible. But they have to be careful with submissions that make negative comments about specific brands. They simply weed out the comments that could get them into any kind of legal hot water.
“About once a month we see something that is not in principle with our brand. But mostly, we let everything we can go through, including links to our competitors’ sites.”
-> Tactic #5. Push Facebook and Twitter exposure
They use the newsletter to promote their Facebook group and Twitter feed. Links to both appear at the top of every issue of Shoe Digest. Audette says it makes sense to incorporate other Web 2.0 aspects into the emails because they are targeting a segment that has already proven to be community-friendly online.
It works. In less than a year, they’ve piled up 4,147 Facebook fans. Also, they have created a Facebook application that immediately sends a note to a friend when someone makes a Zappos.com purchase.
In addition, they have created a network of 14,834 followers on Twitter. CEO Tony Hsieh personally does the ‘tweeting,’ Audette says, and consumers seem to gravitate toward interacting with him.